Dunsford United Church Worship Service September 6, 2020

Surely God is in this place. Help me notice.

Welcome and thank-you for joining us on this fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost September, 6 2020. This service is being distributed by email and Canada Post. May this worship format speak to you. All feedback is welcome.

We are an affirming ministry of the United Church of Canada.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, there is room for all.

I invite you to light a candle, or turn on a light source or just hold your awareness of Christ’s presence within you. As the light shines, may we be reminded we are Christ’s, that Christ’s light and love shines in us, through us and around and beyond us, to our neighbourhoods and communities and to all creation.

We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty,  was signed, on the lands where I am, and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect and reconciliation with all our relations.

As we share this sacred time in whatever space you find yourself, feel the presence of God. As you welcome God, God welcomes you.

Call to Worship:

Come experience God’s mighty presence!

            Help us notice!

Now is a time of celebration, God is with us!

            We celebrate love in loving one another.   

I invite you to pray in whatever way is comfortable for you, opening yourself to receive God. As we ground and centre ourselves, we still ourselves to experience awareness of our own breath, filling ourselves with the fullness of life’s breath, of God in us.

We take our first deep breath to let go of hurts, pains, worries and distractions, a breath of letting go. We take our second deep breath to be aware of the uniqueness of this moment of being connected in worship, even a part, in celebration of God’s love, inviting ourselves to feel God’s presence and the peace of this moment. We take a third deep breath inviting us to be open to God’s presence and open to whatever we experience in worship today. Breathe it in and release your breath into silence. Pause for a few minutes of silence.

Holy and infinite God, thank-you for meeting us where we are, all pilgrims in life’s journey. Still us and fill us with your presence, open to what you reveal to us today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sing, Pray, reflect on these words:  

My Love Colours Outside the Lines More Voices #138.

(Golden Ears United)

My love colours outside the lines,

Exploring paths that few could ever find;

And takes me into places Where I’ve never been before, and opens doors to worlds outside the lines.

My Lord colours outside the lines,

Turns wounds to blessings, water into wine;

And takes me into places where I’ve never been before  and opens doors to worlds outside the lines.

We’ll never walk on water if we’re not prepared to drown, Body and soul need a soaking from time to time.

And we’ll never move the gravestones if we’re not prepared to die,

And realize there are worlds outside the lines.

My soul longs to colour outside the lines,

Tear back the curtains, sun, come in and shine;

I want to walk beyond the boundaries where I’ve never been before,

Throw open doors to worlds outside the lines.  

Words and music copyright © 1995 Common Cup Company, www.commoncup.com. Arrangement copyright © Andrew Donaldson.

Let love guide your path, for love is the holiest path of all.  You are beloved and blessed by God to be a blessing to others. Rejoice!

I invite you to read through these scriptures to see what words, phrases and messages speak to you. These passages come from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message.

Romans 13:8-14

8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

11-14 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

And our Gospel reading comes from Matthew 18:15-20.

15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

18-20 “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

May these words speak to our hearts today.

Sing, pray and reflect on the words of this hymn:

Deep In Our Hearts More Voices #154 (Ron Klusmeier)

      Deep in Our Hearts

Deep in our hearts there is a common vision;

Deep in our hearts there is a common song; Deep in our hearts there is a common story, Telling Creation that we are one.

Deep in our hearts there is a common purpose

Deep in our hearts there is a common goal; Deep in our hearts there is a sacred message, Justice and peace in harmony.

Deep in our hearts there is a common longing;

Deep in our hearts there is a common theme; Deep in our hearts there is a common current, Flowing to freedom like a stream.

Deep in our hearts there is a common vision

Deep In our hearts there is a common song; Deep in our hearts there is a common story, Telling Creation that we are one.  

Words copyright © 1995 by John Wesley Oldham. Music copyright © 1996 by Ron Klusmeier,

Meditation:

The sum total is love!

We are to love one another and make that be our mantra, our guidepost. We need “love one another” to be  our indicator, what our radar tells us, our moral compass in all things.

In the passage from Romans Paul is putting the laws in context and letting people know that the way of love is the code above all that people need to live by.

Scholar, author,  theologian, speaker, Diana Butler Bass,  wrote in her  Saturday September 5 post: : “When I was a girl, my mother told me that it was impolite to discuss religion, politics, or sex in public. So, what did I do? Talk about all those things in recent podcasts.” Butler Bass  is struck in relistening to her interviews by the similar themes that run through  all of her podcasts. She describes these themes as  “a passion for history, hope for the future, and openness to engage faith with creativity, surprise, and wonder.” Sounds like being up and awake to what God is doing, doesn’t it?

Butler Bass invites people into the difficult conversations where agreement or consensus is not present or may not even be possible. In such contexts, we hold the tensions sensitively, intentionally lifting up our commitments to  loving one another to reach a point where the most loving choice can be determined to which all can abide. Butler Bass stresses the importance of engaging in the conversation. Our gospel emphasizes that importance as well.

Today’s texts ask us to consider expectations, people’s understandings,  and actions, dealing with conflicts.

At Luther seminary in their commentary podcast this week, scholars Matt skinner, Rolf Jacobson and Caroline Lewis  quote Audrey West, who argues in the gospel text, this is not a template for reconciliation in every respect,  We are cautioned that sometimes to approach a person individually can be dangerous and unsafe. Karoline Lewis asks: “when situations arise? What are our processes? What are the ways and “How do we commit to be engaged with each other?…How is it we choose to be in community?” Lewis draws attention to how many times in this passage we are asked “to listen.”  We are expected to listen so as to understand, not correct, not talk over, not assume the speaker role or take over with our own story position. To listen and appreciate other perspectives goes a long way in matters of equity, justice, and diversity. Often to listen anticipates conformity, with an expectation to then obey and agree with, or accept that position. Too often we do not listen to understand, to be open to the sensing of God with us. 

Our message today is to uphold a wider listening ear that will create the brave space, for asking questions, for engaging in conversation to understand more fully. It does not mean everyone will agree. Conversations are required to pivot to what is the place at which people can find common ground in which to provide a level of support and comfort. Most of us will agree that if we can do something that will support others to feel safer, more comfortable, and it causes us no personal harm, we do it!

Pre-COVID19, arriving to the hospital it was not unusual to arrive outside a patient room to discover there was an isolation status. Under these conditions, everyone entering the room for any reason, no matter how short or long a time,  practiced what was expected and considered safest … gown, glove, mask, on entry and wash hands on exit, removing PPE.. If entering another isolation unit if even one room away required a fresh procedure. Was it keeping me safe from the patient, or the patient safe from me? I suppose it was sometimes one, sometimes the other, but ultimately both. The sum of it was love. It’s the loving thing, the right thing  to do!

There is a lot of angst about the right thing to do in the face of this pandemic. It might well be right up there with the challenges of awkward topics like politics, religion and sex. What is the safest decision? …what is sufficient  risk analysis and how do we assure reduction of harm? So many contexts …  We have government directives,  local public health directives, directions particular to groups and activities we are involved in, media reports, opinions of friends and family, neighbours and strangers.

Is it safe to return to school? Work place? Community of faith? Habits and routines? Special events?

Every individual may have a myriad of questions bombarding their senses as they face these decisions…What if my perspective of safety and comfort, concerns is different from those around me? What if I think people will keep physical distance and wear their masks, but they do not do so? What if people tell me I don’t need a mask? What if people tell me I am required to wear a mask? What if someone decides a face shield is sufficient when public health says that a mask must be worn when  someone is wearing a face shield? What if in one building I am expected to wear a mask at all times and in another, people take masks off when seated? I don’t want to hurt others feelings. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable and afraid. I don’t want people to think I am overreacting. I don’t want people to judge my decisions. At the other end of perspective… people might say I don’t want people to tell me what to do or what I should wear and I have rights. All along the continuum, there are these differing opinions and thoughts. It kind of feels a lot like the challenges of talking about those taboo topics that we are not supposed to talk about.

Choices in the pandemic however must be talked about. We have to decide what is the most loving thing to do, how to love one another and accept decisions people make, assuring them we are loving them. We sort out protocols and procedures. We stay prepared. We need expectations that are clear and transparent and fully reinforced. We support those not choosing to do something and those who do, even within our homes, we might be working hard to listen to different perspectives to find what we can abide by. For places of worship, some places will be closed and some places will open. It means addressing the inquiries of those who have a full spectrum of opinions. It also means being ready to pivot in a heartbeat to make the very best and safest decisions. While we do not want to live in fear, we need to be informed and deal with potential “what if?” Each day the information that informs our decisions changes.

God meets us right where we are, even in this tension. Matthew 18:20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.(NRSV) is such a familiar and comforting passage, often shared as a reminder of God with us. As it is so often a verse contemplated in isolation of context. Matt Skinner reminds us  we do well to spend some time considering the verse in its scriptural context of tough circumstances. The text here illustrates a more singular or individual focus of wrong done. Situations are not often so clear-cut. Our pandemic deliberations are complex. It all takes a tremendous amount of energy, and potentially creates a lot of stress and anxiety.

There is a kind of binding and loosing in the Matthew text …  who is in and who is out? We choose who we accept and who we don’t, how we judge; what we decide are priorities and what is important. We love one another, amid all these situations. We will keep figuring things out, being patient with each other. It means not judging someone if their stance may be at a different level of comfort than ours. We will not tear down. We will build each other up, being open to circumstances that influence changes in our position. It’s learning and growing. It’s taking care of each other.

Do we imagine God is in the room? Do we imagine God as present and watching, listening?

Communal love is how we  love one another and treat each other, we experience the glimpsing, noticing of God’s love. The sum total is love!

Praise be to God.

Sing, Pray and Reflect on this hymn refrain:

Lord Listen To Your Children Praying Voices United 400

Lord, listen to your children praying, Lord, send your Spirit in this place;      

Lord, listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace!

Prayer:

Almighty God, you search us and know us: may we rely on you in strength and rest on you in weakness, now and in all our days;

Loving God, When we look over our shoulders at fear shadowing us today, you go before us into tomorrow, making a path through the sea of yesterday’s doubts. When our legs tremble from the effort of standing up for what you hope for all creation, you are at our side, offering your heart’s strength. We long for community of peace, love and hope. You remind us of the blessings we have and the opportunities to share those blessings with others. Guide us in times of conflict and uncertainty. Empower us to discern our safe choices.

We lift all those struggling with tragedy and disaster throughout our world–pandemic, disease, abuse, violence, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and the terrifying circumstances people are living through. Strengthen them to work together in provision of care and sense of hope.

Help us to be a chain of support to each other , to those in our families, communities and in the wider world. Be with all those hurting, those struggling with life so much that they are contemplating suicide, to all those touched by death by suicide, for all those grappling with mental, physical, emotional or spiritual concerns. Renew and strengthen. Provide skilled care and support and give people wisdom to reach beyond all stigma to find new hope!

Remind us O God that we are not alone.

Restore our desire to love in the face of pain and hurt, doubt and skepticism.

Renew us in determining what is important to us, in discerning what we will take with us into the next breath, the next moments, and future of our lives!

We praise and thank you for all these things and for your constant presence with us. Today, as a community seeking peace and healing, we offer the names of loved ones who are struggling with illness, with loss, with difficult decisions to make, with feelings of alienation and fear. We name people and situations to you:

We lift up joys and celebrations. We thank-you that our heart can sing with love and gratitude, to love one another.

We pray  together:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever! Amen.

Go now in peace, in hope, in faith and in love. Celebrate we never walk alone and know the sum of it is love.

Sing, Pray and Reflect on this hymn as we go forth:

Go now in peace. Never be afraid. God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.  Know He will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe. Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there deep within your heart*. Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

*( deep within your heart replaces original text “watching from above” as a more inclusive adaptation, not having God watching or at a distance)

A Few Announcements …

Sharon continues to work from home. Please let her know if you would like to connect – text, phone, email, arrange a porch visit or come visit us in the gardens at our home.

Please continue to share the daily email messages “A Little Spiritual Care.”

Your submissions of material for the spiritual care messages are always welcome.

The re-opening team has submitted a plan to the East Central Ontario Regional Council which was approved by email from David Timpson this week. Will we open in person next Sunday? I do not yet have an answer. The Executive and Opening Team has indicated I will be advised on Tuesday.

Please continue to hold Ruth Gray in prayer on her cancer journey. We lift up Archdeacon Bill Gray, their family and all the people of St. John’s Anglican Church Dunsford and their sister churches, as all provide prayers, support and care for the Grays through this challenging time.

If you are already on PAR (pre-authorized remittance), THANK YOU! We encourage you to continue to make your financial offerings to the church. Offerings can be made by cheque, through PayPal or on the new website soon, by clicking the “Canada Helps” donation button on our website.  Please do what you can to continue to support our ongoing mission and ministry together. 

Stay safe and stay well!

Sabbath Blessings,

Sharon

References:

Butler Bass, Diana. (Sept. 5, 2020). From the Cottage: Everything My Mother Told Me Never to Discuss. Email distribution.  

Lewis, Karoline. (Sept. 6, 2020) Working Preacher Sermon Brainwaves  Podcast for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. Luther Seminary. 

Ordinary Time After Pentecost. The Church of England. 13th Sunday After Trinity Collect retrieved from https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/common-material/collects-post-communions/ordinary-time-after-pentecost%29

(opening part of Prayers of the People)


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